The gigantic mooring mast erected at Saint Hubert airport, Montreal, to accommodate Britain's leviathan of the air is a marvel of mechanical ingenuity
Mooring For the R100
The gigantic mooring mast erected at Saint Hubert airport, Montreal, to accommodate Britain's leviathan of the air is a marvel of mechanical ingenuity
ALMOST two years have passed since Canada bowed her beau geste to the Motherland and declared filial willingness to abet the establishment of Empire air routes by erecting the latest thing in airship mooring masts. Today the job is finished. The tower is built. The landing crew is trained in its duties. Complete consummation of the task only awaits the sighting of the R 100’s globular frame, and Britain will be linked to Britain overseas by air liner. During those two years a corps of Canadian engineers and mechanics have been quietly engaged—one might
almost say stealthily engaged, when the lack of publicity attending their enterprise is considered—in the fabrication at Saint Hubert Airport, near Montreal, of a million-dollar edifice which combines all the latest developments in machinery and gadgets into a dirigible mooring tower that is the world’s finest, bar none. Simultaneously, a squad of Canadians, commanded by an officer of the Royal Canadian Navy, has been stationed at Cardington, the Motherland’s airship base, learning and practising the gentle art of warping and mooring these leviathans of the air lanes. As you read these lines Commander Pressey and his men will be on the high seas, homeward bound, to prepare to receive the R 100 at Saint Hubert. In their wake will come Commander Burney and his ship. Thus, by the end of May—May 20 has been officially set as the date of the airship’s arrival—airship service between Britain and Canada will have become a fait accompli, the western terminal facilities being entirely provided by Canadian dollars, the building devices of Canadian engineers and, so far as has been possible, Canadian-made machinery, while the crew to moor and care for the giant ship as she floats at rest above Canadian territory, will be Canadian personnel.
The average citizen who has read in his evening newspaper, from time to time, that Canada is providing mooring mast facilities for the R100, would be quite within the realm of logical reasoning if he decided in his mind that a mooring mast is nothing more or less than a long rod of steel reaching toward the sky, or a structure which resembles picture postcards of the Eiffel Tower, plus a good strong ring at the top through which dirigibles can loop their hitching ropes and tie off. If he has driven out the Chambly Highway from Montreal, a distant view of the tower from the road confirms this impression. An Eiffel Tower in the middle of a field, perhaps a little machinery in the base of the tower, and a circular staircase from top to bottom to enable passengers to reach terra firma—that would seem to fill the bill of requirements for a junior partner in the enterprise of Empire Air Transport. But no.
Instead of this simple picture one finds a scientifically planned base-building below Jhe mast itself, and in this building a series of machines and mechanical devices by means of which one man, or at most two, seated on the balconies of the tower, 208 feet above, may moor giant dirigibles, merely by the manipulation of buttons and levers. Gargantuan winches, brakes, transformers, motors and control devices, adjusted to move huge air liners an inch at a time, if needs be, combine to make the ground floor a maze of machines. Here, in three huge bays you will find the winches which, when hitched
by cables to an airship standing 500 feet above the landing field, will bring the liner alongside the tower top by the manipulation of control systems of fingertouch delicacy. Here you will find powerful air brakes which, when thrown into control of the winches, will prevent any creeping of the taut cables, reaching out to hold the dirigible aloft while in complete control of those on the ground. Here you will find the huge motors which can haul in or slacken off a ship’s cables at the touch of a mooring officer’s finger. Here you will find fuelling devices, the scientific arrangements of which almost beggar lay description. Here you will find conveniences for the comfort of passengers, for their embarkation and landing, to compare with those of any pier where a Mauretania docks.
“Here She Comes!”
r"PHE best perspective from which to view this assembling of mechanical and scientific device is to picture the day when the R100 comes to town and to station ourselves in the tower at the moment when the cry “Here she comes!” goes up, as the giant liner points her nose toward the field from the river ten miles away. First you will catch the picture of this huge blimp floating gracefully above the field, her engines tuned down to a gentle thrum, as she noses into the wind and her commander orders the mooring and yaw cables out from the nose. Three cables are dropped. They are taken by hands on the ground and are fastened to three other
cables which reach out from the tower building, two from the ground level, one from the summit of the mast. At the moment when these cables are joined the commander of the R 100 will cease to be in charge of his ship, as his duties will be taken over by Commander Pressey of the Royal Canadian Navy who, as the Mooring Officer, will operate controls from his station atop the tower.
Of these cable lines, two are called yaw cables. They reach from the dirigible to the ground, where they will be joined to similar cables which run through cement-anchored snatchblocks into the base of the building and thence to the winches which control them. The purpose of these cables is to guide direction of movement of the dirigible and to hold her frame steady into the wind. The third cable is the mooring cable. It, too, after being thrown from the nose of the airship will be hitched to another cable from the mast. The third cable leading from the mast, however, makes its exit from the apex, whither it has been led up a runway from its controlling winch on the ground. Passing up the entire height of the steel trellis, it emerges through the centre of a telescopic arm, thence being permitted to fall to the ground to meet the airship’s mooring line. Once the three pairs of cables are joined, the movement of levers at Commander Pressey’s control station will set the winches at ground level in motion. The slack will be run in until the yaw lines are taut and the mooring cable stretches from mast to ship.
The next task is to bring the air liner alongside her dock, 200 feet high in the air, make her fast and permit her passengers to come ashore. The method, apparently, is simple to gentlemen versed in the present-day fashion for warping these mammoths of the air to their docks. A control lever is thrown into gear and the Mooring Officer, watching all three cables at once, sets in motion the three winches on the ground below him, casting them in the rôles of tugboats scuttling about an ocean-going liner. Slowly the dirigible moves toward the mast. Should it become necessary to swing her huge frame to starboard, the mooring winch will be thrown out of gear, while pull is exerted on the starboard yaw-winch with simultaneous reversing of the port yaw, to slacken off the cable. The desired manoeuvre complete and the ship in line for the continued pull toward her pier, all winches are set in motion again and the job of bringing the airship alongside the mast continues. So perfect is control of these machines which man has invented for the guiding of leviathans come to town from the skies, that manipulation within a radius of inches is possible. The slightest uncontrolled movement of the cable on any winch is prevented by the attachment of hair-trigger air brakes. Creeping of the mooring or yaw lines is impossible. When the Mooring Officer’s fingers call “Halt!” halt-and-stay-halted is the rule built into these almost human machines by their inventors. By such method and by virtue of such minutely calipered accuracies will dirigibles be brought to port at the Tower of Saint Hubert.
A Unique Achievement
'""THERE is nothing in all aviation’s christendom to match this mooring mast, erected on the terrain of a land over which no airship has ever flown. Its erection marks the beginning of a new
day in the controlling of airships from the ground. Completely passé is the method of throwing overside a hundred lead-lines to be seized by a landing crew abjured to hang on for grim death and walk the ship to its berth in a hangar. Gone are the excitements and the halfhysterical orders that prevailed less than two years ago when the Graf Zeppelin first came to Lakehurst. Today, these high-flying liners of the clouds are warped to their docks under the control of one man’s hand and less than a score of men are employed, from the ground jobs beside the winches to the controls aloft at masthead. Here is the most perfect unit of its type in the world. True, its basic principles were brought to Canada from the United Kingdom base at Cardington in Bedfordshire, but new wrinkles of control and manipulation have been added which place this Canadian structure in a class alone. Until new tricks of the inventor’s trade are evolved Saint Hubert will remain the airship station for all the world to shoot at, in so far as mooring facilities are concerned. Already an exact replica has been ordered for construction at Karachi, eastern terminus of the projected England-to-India run— such is the impression that the Saint Hubert port has made on those expert in the ways of dirigibles.
In an earlier paragraph mention has been made of the telescopic arm which carries the cable out through the top of the mast and through which the mooring line is hauled in as the airship is brought alongside. It is at the outer end of this arm that the actual act of mooring takes place when the ship is at the dockside, for this arm and the nose of ships of the R 100 type have been fashioned to come together and lock to each other, after the style of the everyday snap-fastener. In short, the mooring cable passes out from the dirigible through the cup of a fastener to meet a cable passed through the protruding clip of the fastener’s mate on the tower top. When the cable is hauled in, cup and protuberance meet, are locked together, and the ship is made fast.
The arm itself swings free on accurately counterbalanced devices in a chamber near the summit of the mast, in order that the dirigible after mooring may not be locked beyond the possibility of gentle movement in the breeze. By this means have inventors of the mast protected ships at anchor from tearing themselves loose in any gale which might blow up while they are docked. As an extraordinary safety device there are breakaway levers in the tower, one operation of which would snap the cable inside the arm while the snap-fastener is being broken clear. Thus, in the event of sudden storms, the dirigible can be cut loose in a split second from its berth, to ride out the gale without buffetting herself against the structure of the mast. It is calculated, however, that the mooring facilities provided will enable ships at anchor to outride any ordinary storm. Ships at the Cardington anchorage have encountered sixty-milers without the necessity of cutting their mooring lines. On the Canadian mast new safety devices have been added as further proof that no eventuality has been overlooked in Canada’s preparations for entry into the transoceanic airship traffic.
Port of Entry
TN ADDITION to the intricate devices by which the R 100 will be piloted to her dock with infinite precision, moored to the projecting arm and held at her aerial wharfside, the comfort and convenience of passengers have been stressed in the erection of the mast. Once the act of mooring is completed a gangway will be led ashore, across which passengers will walk with ease and safety, to compare with the voyager’s coming-ashore from the deck of an ocean greyhound in Montreal’s harbor, hard by. Once across the gangplank they will walk about the railed-in landing balcony, passing through a door which leads to a rapid-transit elevator. Descending to the second story of the base-building they will find rest rooms, the customs port, a post-office and all the perquisites of a modern harbor, carried to Saint Hubert for the comfort of people who, for two days or more, have swayed gently through the upper ether over the ocean. Thence they will travel downward again, passing through an exit to their waiting cars on the road which leads to the railway station or to the Montreal-bound highway, while Commanders Burney and Scott and their crew make ready for the voyage home.
There remained the planning of refuelling and reinflation facilities. Here again is mechanical perfection raised to the nth degree. The method for raising gasoline from the ground into the tanks of the R 100 or other aerial visitors, 208 feet high in the air, is again something for the layman to ponder with wonderI ment. Since gasoline is lighter than water, it naturally follows that it will sit above ! a body of the commodity which pours from the kitchen tap. Likewise there is
no marriage of their ingredients. Hence we find water pressure utilized to hoist gasoline to the top of the tower. It is arranged after this fashion. On the ground level there is a storage tank capable of holding 10,000 gallons of fuel. At the base of this tank is an inlet through which water can be driven under pressure, while at the top of the tank is an outlet giving into a pipeway which leads to the top of the mast. Thus, when fuel is wanted for the R 100’s tanks aloft, all that is required is the opening of the water intake at the base of the storage tank. The water, forcing entry, drives gasoline out through the exit aperture and up the pipeline leading to the top of the tower.
By such simplicities do old-fangled pumping systems and the like pass into the limbo of forgotten things. Across the field, not far from the hangars where the mail planes are housed at night, you will find the hydrogen house where the gases used in maintaining these giant aír liners aloft are prepared, to await transfer across the field and, through the summit of the tower, into the body of the mammoth bag.
So stands the mooring mastín the centre of the lush-farming countryside of the Townships, a monument to Canadian ingenuity and skill and to modern belief that man, soon, will ride the airways across the oceans with all the sang-froid which nowadays marks the traveller venturing abroad on his seagoing liner.
Soon the cables will be tapping out their staccato messages of departure. Young men in newspaper offices the world over will begin to trace the course of the giant airship as she spans the seas, and to record her progress in succeeding editions. Soon the telegraph wires will dot-dash-dot the news that R 100 has crossed the coast and is driving inland up Gulf and river. Sight-seeing, thrill-hunting Canadians in droves will wrap their packages of sandwiches and fill their thermos flasks, remembering if they are wise that, though airships may be delayed, mealtime will surely come. New Morse-code messages will put Quebec at the liner’s stern and Commander Pressey and his aides will stand to their stations at winch and tower-top, soon to throw in the magic levers which will bring this new leviathan to dock and so write another page into the history of man’s conquest of the air.
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